– says spite and short-sighted politics costing Guyana billionsFormer President Donald Ramotar has stated that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) is to be blamed for the recent lawsuit against Government for environmental taxes imposed on companies importing beverages in Guyana.Last month, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams revealed that SM Jaleel & Company Limited and its local subsidiary, Guyana Beverages Inc, have filed proceedings in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as they seek a refund of the now repealed environmental tax that was paid in Guyana over a seven-year period. This action comes in light of a CCJ ruling last year in a similar lawsuit filed by Surinamese company Rudisa Beverages, which was awarded $1.6 billion in compensation by the Court. According to Ramotar, this situation is the result of the APNU and AFC’s “short-sighted and vindictive politics”, noting that if those parties while in Opposition had shown an iota of patriotism, the current situation would not have happened.He recalled that the environmental tax matter arose several years ago when Rudisa Beverages sued the Guyana Government for violating the Caribbean Community (Caricom) agreement in relation to the treatment of Member States-based companies operating in Guyana.The environmental tax that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government had imposed on companies importing plastic bottles affected mainly soft drink companies.The contention was that the local companies, mainly Banks and DDL, were not subjected to the same tax making it discriminatory towards overseas companies.Ramotar noted that this case should never have reached the CCJ for a decision because the PPP/C Government had reached an agreement with Rudisa that if all the companies were treated the same, then the company would drop the case.The former President added that his Administration consulted both local companies and while there was not full agreement, a decision was taken to cut the tax by half and apply it to all the companies operating in Guyana.“We thought that the Opposition would find no difficulty in supporting this, that the Opposition would realise the cost to Guyana’s taxpayers and support the amendment to the law. Unfortunately, the Opposition saw this as another tool to damage the PPP/C Government,” he stated, adding that despite forceful and convincing arguments by his Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Legal Affairs, the then APNU and AFC Opposition parties used their combined majority to vote against the relevant bill.This, Ramotar outlined, resulted in the case going before the CCJ, which ultimately ruled in favour of the beverage company incurring a billion-dollar bill for the Guyana Government to honour the award.The former Head of State outlined that this could have been avoided and the money injected into the sugar sector, thus preventing any closure of estates, if the then Opposition had listened to the pleading of his Administration.“The PPP/C had also warned that would not be the end of the matter. It was pointed out then that some companies from Trinidad and Tobago could also take us to court because the case with Rudisa was the same. APNU and AFC seemed delighted to hear this, seeing that it would hurt the PPP/C Government. That seemed to spur them even more to vote against the amendment. As things turned out, it is those parties that are in Government now and had to pay the $6 billion which they so delighted in imposing on the Guyanese taxpayers,” he remarked.According to Ramotar, what the PPP/C had warned about was now coming to pass and companies from T&T were now suing the Government as well. He pointed out that this could cost the taxpayers of Guyana much more than the Rudisa judgement as some of those companies were much bigger, thus the award could be even greater.The former President posited that this situation was totally unnecessary and completely avoidable; however, APNU and the AFC had displayed a strong unpatriotic stance.“These are the parties that now wield power in our country. The level of vindictiveness and hatred is unprecedented. The cost of such an attitude is great. The bill is climbing,” Ramotar commented.